Scots Special Adviser on Climate is SNP Apparatchik ?

Stephen Gethins

Stephen Gethins, who graduated with a degree as Bachelor of Laws, awarded by Dundee University in 1998, and previously worked at SNP Party HQ, and was also Administrator for the Westmister SNP Parliamentary MP’s Group, is now  *was advising Alex Salmond and other Scottish Cabinet Ministers on a host of subjects, for which he has no formal qualifications. Seen here, on the left in a BBC News report, where he appeared as Dundee Student Union Vice President, complaining about student finance, in 1999.

 The subjects for which he was officially listed by the Scottish Government as adviser on were expansive, yet even this glorified portfolio belies his true calling. According to the official Scottish Government Website (September 2011), he was listed as being responsible for giving advice to Scottish Ministers on, Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth, Infrastructure and Capital Investment. Previously, in answer to a written question in August 2009, John Swinney MSP described his responsibilities as including, “Support on policy and communications for Environment and Rural Affairs, Europe and External Relations, Energy and Climate Change.”

According to a Media Briefing, on the 23rd February 2009, released on the Official Scottish Government Website, The First Minister’s Special Advisor told journalists that Stephen Gethins would be joining as a special advisor as of next week and would be responsible primarily for Rural Affairs and the Environment as well as Europe and External Affairs.

Mr. Gethins has a long history of arguing for draconian measures to deal with “Climate Change”, which he sees as being caused by man, and a future hazard for mankind. Furthermore he has advocated ludicrous CCS Schemes, fanciful energy suppply measures, and produced policy documents which appear to show a deliberate effort to inveigle moneys from European Public Funds, in order to subsidise a “low carbon economy” in Scotland.

Immediately prior to his 2009 incarnation as Scottish Government Special Advisor, he was appointed to a post with Edinburgh PR Firm, Pagoda Public Relations. Business magazines at the time in 2008, gave the following account.

Stephen Gethins LLB

 “Pagoda Public Relations has appointed Stephen Gethins as a senior consultant. Gethins will be tasked with undertaking a wide range of PR and public affairs responsibilities. He joins Pagoda from Scotland Europa in Brussels, where he has promoted Scottish economic interests with focus on energy and climate change issues since 2007.”

 “A former Head of Press and Communications and subsequently chief of staff for the SNP Group at Westminster, Gathins went onto work in the European Union as a political advisor in the Committee of the Regions. He has also worked as a senior advisor on the SNP’s successful election campaign last year (2007).  Gethins will begin his new role in January next year and follows the agency’s recent appointment by First Scotrail to its PR account.”

Stephen’s appointment further strengthens our offer to clients of an integrated PR and public affairs approach, focused on Scottish issues”, explained Pagoda PR’s managing director Ian Coldwell. “Added to this, his experience of energy, renewable and environment issues will be extremely important in what is a growing area of client business for us,” concluded Coldwell.

In June 2008, Gethins was still “working” at the Scotland Europa organisation in Brussels, as was confirmed at the time by Anne McLaughlin, of the SNP in her blog.

First Ian (Hudghton MEP) collected me from my hotel at 9 and we headed over to the European Commission ……. We had lunch and I caught up with my old mate from my SNP HQ days, Stephen Gethins – he’s now doing a grand job for Scotland Europa here in Brussels.” wrote Ms. McLaughlin. [Ian Hudghton is also the SNP Party President.]

 It would seem that Gethins blurs the lines between these various “appointments”,  because as late as January 2009, just before (or after) he was due to start work for Pagoda PR, he published a document, called “The second Strategic European Energy Review“, it had a lengthy subtext ……

An EU Energy Security and Solidarity Action Plan, Stephen Gethins, Scotland Europa. EU Security of Supply and Scotland’s opportunity. University of Dundee, 16 Jan 2009, which seems to indicate he was still working at Scotland Europa and at Dundee University. The full text (PDF) of that document is very revealing, and what Gethins then proposed has now been adopted full square, by Alex Salmond and his SNP Government. It seems like the SNP has been slavishly pandering to Gethins Climate Fantasies for some long time, and that this was just the latest installment.

That document was not soley the work of Mr. Gethins however, since a document with a very similar title and purpose was published by the European Commission in November 2008. ” Second Strategic Energy Review : an EU energy security and solidarity action plan“. That EU document may be seen at the EUR-Lex Portal.

Not content with this apparent bald plagiarism however, Gethins then went on to write a summary of the Commissions proposals and appears to moot a sort of preemptive connivance, so that the Scottish Government might benefit from becoming a flag waver, and an avid advocate for this errant EU policy. How much of that document Gethins himself was responsible for, we can only guess. However his treatise was published in the “Brussels Bulletin“, Issue Number 20, dated November 2008. This is a Scottish Parliament publication, but apparently edited from an address in Brussels.

Rather than just give some reference to just the bulletin itself, I shall cite a more wide ranging Scottish Parliament report, which discusses the implications and ramifications of what is contained in the bulletin itself. The Minutes of the European and External Relations Committee of the Scottish Parliament, 18th Meeting, 2008 (Session 3), held on Tuesday 18 November 2008. Read the full text as a PDF File (1.5MB).

This Document, “Alex Salmond, First Minister’s Responsibilities“, reveals that Gethins had set himself as the “Gatekeeper” of all correspondance between John Swinney & The Finance Team, Stewart Stevenson & the Climate Team, and even Alex Salmond himself. ……

Some Quotes from that document :

“It is extremely important that the relevant Special Advisers are copied into submissions. Stephen Gethins is the Special Adviser attached to the Finance and Sustainable Growth portfolio and should be copied into all submissions to the Cabinet Secretary for Finance & Sustainable Growth.”

“It is extremely important that the relevant Special Advisers are copied into all submissions. Stephen Gethins is the first point of contact for the Environment Portfolio.”

Gethins may not know about Macro-economics, but he certainly knows about Micro-management. The overseer of all matters financial and environment related. It’s a wonder he had the time, what with also dealing with Europe & External Relations, and all that.

Questions must be asked. Who Exactly is Stephen Gethins, and what are his formal qualifications? Who is paying the salary of Stephen Gethins, and when was he working for whom? Did Gethins pay UK Taxes whilst he was working in Brussels? Is Stephen Gethins still an SNP Member, and who is he really working for now? What is Stephen Gethins’ relationship with Ian Hudghton, Alex Salmond, John Swinney, Nicola Sturgeon, Mike Russell and other Senior SNP Party Figures? Was Stephen Gethins responsible for pushing the fatuous SNP climate change agenda, and its ludicrous targets, and were the Party hierarchy aware of these deceptions? Does Stephen Gethins understand holistic macro-economics ? Was there bogus information supplied to Scottish Government Ministers? How much has this failed agenda cost the Scots Nation, in terms of lost jobs, and cash from the Public Exchequer, and is Stephen Gethins primarily responsible for this? What will the Scottish Government do to review these matters? Who will hold the Scottish Government to account for this lack of diligence? Will the Procurators Fiscal take an interest in these matters? ……… There will be more on this story.


Other Special Advisors may well have had a similar chequered past, and the current crop are described for your edification, together with their functions, in the table below ….
[this table will be updated in future revisions – Ed]

Name Official Role in SNP “Government”
Kevin Pringle
 Head of Communications 
 and Political Spokesperson
Stuart Nicolson
 Depute Head of Communications
 and Political  Spokesperson
Malcolm Fleming
Communications Special Adviser
(special responsibility for forward planning,
 social media and media management)
John MacInnes
Communications Special Adviser
(special responsibility for the constitution)
Colin Pyle
Responsible for the First Minister’s operations,
strategic  priorities and business programme
in government
Geoff Aberdein
Principal Staff Officer and Support to Cabinet
Secretary for Parliamentary Business and
Government Strategy
Noel Dolan
Support to the Deputy First Minister,
Health, Wellbeing and Cities Strategy
Alex Bell
Head of Policy, Research and Strategy
Stephen Gethins
Policy Special Adviser for Energy, Rural Affairs
and the Environment and the Infrastructure &
Capital Investment portfolio, apart from Transport
David Hutchison
Policy Special Adviser for Education, Lifelong
Learning, Culture and Youth Employment
Elizabeth Lloyd
Policy Special Adviser for Transport, Finance,
Employment and Sustainable Growth
John McFarlane
Policy Special Adviser for Justice
 and Parliamentary Business
 details from the Official Scottish "Government" website; 13 Feb 2012

 — What qualifications do these other “special advisers” have ? We should be told !

Still please do read this example of the sort of quasi-religious doctrine that they churn out. Read with astonishment as apparatchiks are instructed, how to compose “missives”, and even the font size and typeface to use. What not to use as an “excuse”. How to hide facts from enquirers, or divert their attention elsewhere and so on. Different “Ministers” have different preferences, for instance, on how they wish letters to be drawn up, and even the style of advice they receive, and from whom. How to make up so called “briefing packs”, what to put in, and what to leave out. Absolute rigid control freakery, in our opinion. Still you can read the document and judge for yourself.

Scottish Ministerial Preferences

Ministerial preferences issued by Private Office staff to Scottish Government officials detailing how Scottish Ministers prefer their briefing, speeches and correspondence to be prepared and handled. Click here for PDF Document (opens in a new window)

* [There will be more on this esoteric and little known coterie in a future article, since this article was posted, Mr. Gethins resigned his post as Special Adviser to the First Minister on January 1st 2013. If remaining a card carrying Member of the SNP, one wonders which direction his career path will now take, and whether his ideas still have a forum within the SNP Hierachy. This article will be updated once all the "dust has settled". - Editor March 2013]

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4 Responses to Scots Special Adviser on Climate is SNP Apparatchik ?

  1. futureboy says:

    I would certainly be very interested in what serious scientific degree he was studying for while doing political activism at Dundee. With that list of subjects in which he is allegedly an expert one would expect him to be a contender for a Nobel in physics.

    Or not.

  2. Brian Murphy says:

    What are Stephen Gethins formal qualifications then?
    Does ANYBODY even know?
    This seems crazy to me, like a kind of nepotism, and will hurt the Scotland’s economy. Soon Scotland will be begging for money from the German Bankers, just like Eire, Greece, and Portugal had to do.

  3. Jacob Stewart says:

    Anyone with the right “connections” can get a well paid Government Job. Hey it’s just like the old days of the Labour Administration. Jobs for the boys, backhanders and slush/hush moneys, isn’t that the case? Who will care for Scotland’s workers, and staunch the brain drain. There’s nothing for an ambitious engineer/chemist/entrepreneur in Auld Scotia now. A green mega-fantasy of vaccuous ineptitude, that’s all that King Salmond proposes, and he has no idea how to make it work. Herr Obersturmführer Swinney, will inveigle and cajole, but it won’t work because nobody believes his so called “Green Economy” forecasts. Fantastical claims and utter hokum.

    Enough already !

  4. This is no different to any other political administration.

    Always there will be “spindoctors”. In Blair’s UK Government it was Campbell, so on it goes with Salmond and Gethins. The difference being that at least Blair knew what the real agenda was. Like him or not Blair was at least informed, but Salmond is completely ignorant of what is going on, for instance with the Carbon capture schemes in Fife and Peterhead, and maybe now we hear at Hunterston too.

    It is the case that Gethins argued for these sorts of schemes in the past, and before even the SNP had a share of power at Holyrood’s Scottish Parliament. The documents quoted in the above piece are genuine public record, and tell a compelling story.

    Now a trip to the middle-east is arranged for Salmond to try to obtain funding for a continuance of the ill fated CCS schemes. One wonders who arranged that particular exercise ?

    Still I take exception at the claim that there is …. “nothing for an ambitious engineer/chemist/entrepreneur in Auld Scotia now” as you remark. Would that Scotland’s scientists and engineers embark upon some genuine research and development however, and not become involved in resurrecting the dead corpse of Carbon Capture Schemes.

    Thorium powered nuclear reactors appear to be the way forward, for base load power, and together with the fluidised bed stoichiometric combustion of coal, can provide a clean cheap energy source which will lead to increased industrial opportunities, without entering the realms of fantasy carbon capture schemes which only add to the burden upon industry, and provide no tangible benefit to the environment.

    One thing is clear however, Salmond and his Ministers should heed none of the unfounded and biased advice meeted out by Stephen Gethins, since the documents cited show that his opinions are not only heavily biased, but that he has exercised undue control and censorship over the information flow to Government Ministers.

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